Sunday, 19 March 2017

A STONE ROSES EARLY CLASSIC


THE STONE ROSES
TRADJIC ROUNDABOUT
 
 
 
 
The early Stone Roses sound has a raw energy which harks back to the days of punk, John Squire and Ian Brown were into ‘The Clash’ and a local Manchester band called ‘Slaughter and the dogs’ with their classic song ‘cranked up really high’. These influences can be heard on the band’s early recordings. One of the earliest songs written in 1984 is ‘Tradjic Roundabout’ and already it shows Ian’s aggressive punk singing style and John’s brilliant guitar structures. The song captures the passion and the vibrant energy of those early gigs, along with other songs such as ‘Fall’ with its ‘I’m not your darling, darling/I wanna see you falling!’ and ‘Tell me’. I love the song and think it’s the best song from their early period and I have had a go at transcribing the lyrics which I hope are correct:

 

Tradjic Roundabout
The Stone Roses

 

‘Witches, warlocks and vulture-men too –
Martin Luther had nothing on you!
He had a dream; you’ll have a baby, baby,
Will you cope, I don’t know, maybe.

Your CIA in Mothercare,
They’ll screw you up cos you’re not all there!
I see submission in a million eyes,
Dream-weaving habits are still telling lies!

Ah you’re not so gifted at all, at all.

Bitches, basements, all over the land,
Just checking pulses with half-dose in hand!
You think you’re righteous cos you’re smoking some shit,
And I’m the one that pays for it!

Ah you’re not so gifted at all, at all,
And we’re not so gifted at all, at all.

Woo!

And you’re not so gifted at all, at all,
And we’re not so gifted at all, at all.’




 
The song was originally recorded in 1985 for The Stone Roses first album which was produced by Martin Hannett. The album was not released as the band was not happy with it. The album was eventually released in 1996 as ‘Garage Flower’ and the track listing for the album is:

  1. "Getting Plenty" – 4:04
  2. "Here It Comes" (Brown/Squire) – 2:39
  3. "Trust a Fox" – 3:03
  4. "Tradjic Roundabout" – 3:12
  5. "All I Want" – 3:39
  6. "Heart on the Staves" – 3:19
  7. "I wanna be Adored" (Brown/Squire) – 3:29
  8. "This Is the One" (Brown/Squire) – 3:41
  9. "Fall" – 2:49
  10. "So Young" (Brown/Squire) – 3:18
  11. "Tell Me" (Brown/Squire) – 3:52
  12. "Haddock" – 0:14
  13. "Just a Little Bit" – 3:08
  14. "Mission Impossible" – 3:48
 




THE STONE ROSES
Reni, John, Mani and Ian
from meeting them at
Wolverhampton Crown Court
Thursday 26th April 1990

Saturday, 18 March 2017

THE LENT LILY


THE LENT LILY

BY

BARRY VAN-ASTEN

 

 

Lady Amelia Cotgrave-Stuart had been making preparations all morning for her garden party. Since the loss of her husband Major Sir Andrew Cotgrave-Stuart thirteen years ago she had thrown herself into social engagements and was very fond of entertaining guests who were on the social ascendancy. The Cotgrave-Stuarts had been a much devoted couple and the Major’s death was a great blow dealt to her Ladyship for they had had the perfect arrangement for a marriage – he served in his Regiment abroad and she was the perfect and most dutiful wife in England, seeing each other twice a year. The unlikely product of this perfect union was a son, namely Aloysius Nightingale Cotgrave-Stuart in his eleventh year. It was a gloriously sunny morning and the birds were singing in the trees as spring had arrived uncommonly early in Chiswick.
Lady Amelia’s first guests to arrive were the celebrated poet Oscar Wilde and his good friend Lord Alfred Douglas, whom Wilde referred to as ‘Bosie’. Lady Amelia greeted Mr. Wilde and his companion cordially and invited them into the drawing-room with its huge French windows overlooking the garden and she turned to Oscar,
‘Mr. Wilde, I hope it won’t be to your displeasure but I have invited the curate, Reverend Thomas Steadman, are you familiar with him?’
‘Indeed I have had the misfortune madam,’ Wilde replied, ‘for I was once asked reluctantly to attend one of his abominable sermons. It was a splendid tirade if I remember and I recall that Reverend Steadman is the only “man of the cloth” with the ability to make the glorious Passion of Christ sound like the cloying death of “Little Nell”! It brought tears to my eyes, not tears of emotion and sadness but tears of laughter! And more recently I was asked to attend the Church Fete and give a talk on “Art and Aesthetics” and once more I was brought to tears, tears of joy in fact, for the good Reverend had left undone that which a gentleman never leaves undone, in the trouser region madam! I had to escort myself from the Church Hall for I was quite purple in the face in floods of uproarious laughter!’
‘How disgraceful!’ said Bosie.
‘Yes, well, and what do you do Lord Alfred?’ enquired Lady Amelia.
‘As little as possible as often as possible! In fact, I am rather strict about my daily regimen – I spend enormous hours exercising my ability to be completely idle and doing absolutely nothing!’ said the handsome Bosie.
‘Lord Alfred’s attitude is very common amongst the young I’m afraid Lady Cotgrave-Stuart, he pleads abject poverty to anyone who will listen to him and his father the Marques of Queensbury boasts of his exorbitant wealth to anyone who will listen to him, though they never speak or listen to each other!’ explained Wilde.
‘That is a great shame Lord Alfred! Mr Wilde’, said Lady Amelia turning to Oscar, ‘they tell me you are the wealthiest man in all of London!’
‘That is incorrect madam’ answered the clean-shaven bard, ‘for that auspicious displeasure falls upon the awful obnoxious head of that poisonous impostor Mr. George Bernard Shaw who delights in advertising his remarkable and vulgar wealth as if he were of papal occupation; he tirelessly parades his theatrical inability all across London! I make it a point, in fact a religious oath, to never see any of his tedious plays and to cut him dead whenever I am unfortunate to be in his presence. It is the least one can do for the sake of art!’
‘Money is the root of all evil’ retorted Bosie’ ‘and when Oscar comes into his inheritance he intends to be thoroughly wicked with it!’
Her Ladyship escorted the two gentlemen into the garden and pointed out the spring beds and borders. ‘What a charming and delightful garden you have your Ladyship! Such beautiful flowers! I often wish that I were green-fingered you know!’
‘Are you fond of horticulture Mr. Wilde?’
‘Only at a safe distance madam and in small doses, for nature can be truly horrific; I find nature invariably falls short of one’s idea of perfection – only man achieves absolute perfection!’
The young boy Aloysius had been busy chasing Lady Amelia’s cat Clytemnestra when he suddenly stopped and walked up to Mr. Wilde and said ‘they tell me you are a poet sir!’
‘Who is spreading such vicious lies and rumours about me?’ retorted Oscar fiercely, ‘I shall bring charges against them!’
‘It is common knowledge’ answered Aloysius ‘and public opinion says that…’
‘I never repeat any knowledge which purports to be common’ interrupted Oscar, ‘and I never listen to public opinion! It is invariably wrong in its judgements and vastly exaggerated! No, I am in fact what is known as a “living and breathing poem” which is what all great poets strive to achieve but fail utterly to accomplish! Are you fond of poetry my young Narcissus?’
The boy looked quizzical and answered with perfect nonchalance – ‘No, I find it is a lot of nonsense about something and nothing all wrapped-up in fancy words!’
‘What a delightful and perceptive young thing you are! Bosie, I fear the boy’s young eyes have been exposed too soon to that old satanic show-off Swinburne for to form such an opinion of poetry he must be truly damaged beyond belief and the precious bloom of his ignorance has disappeared irretrievably! Tell me, who is this charming yet somewhat melancholy Aristotle?’ said Wilde, turning to Lady Amelia.
‘That Mr. Wilde is my son Aloysius’.
‘Does he bite?’ expressed Bosie.
‘More to the point’ continued Wilde ‘is he housetrained madam? Remind me Bosie to inform dear Mr. Dowson that his eager public anxiously awaits his next volume of “nonsense about something and nothing!”’ Lady Amelia frowned as Wilde continued,
‘He is wise beyond his years and a great credit to you Lady Amelia!’
‘Thank you Mr. Wilde, he really is the most well-behaved young man in all of London I believe and I foresee great things ahead for him!’ said a proud Lady Amelia.
‘How unfortunate Lady Amelia! That will all change when he comes of age, do not be despondent madam!’ Wilde said, bowing his head towards the little gentleman.
‘He has great prospects,’ gushed Lady Amelia to Oscar, ‘he is at Eton and is destined for Oxford I am told!’
‘Many a flowering mind has been crushed and ruined by an Oxbridge education and Eton simply lets anybody through its doors these days! Imagine my consternation to learn that my butcher has one of his offspring who is a young Etonian!’
The group walked a little further down the garden and came to a chair with a man seated upon a cushion, ‘what have we here Lady Amelia, a rare bloom indeed?’
‘My father gentlemen, may I present Lord Rothwell!’ Lord Rothwell was oblivious to the intrusion and unable to greet the company. ‘You must forgive his Lordship’ said Lady Amelia, ‘he is meditating!’
‘Does he often snore when he meditates?’ enquired Mr. Wilde.
‘Continuously, for I find the deeper the trance, the louder the snore!’ returned Lady Amelia.
‘I often find the same thing happening in Church, for the pews are filled with people busy meditating; they must attain a very high level of spiritual enlightenment for the snoring is positively cacophonous!’
Lady Amelia took Bosie aside and asked him if it is true that Mr. Wilde is truly a genius. ‘But of course’, Bosie answered, ‘he would take great delight in stating the fact, as he does, often, but between you and me, the man is all surface and no substance, for it is I who am the real inspiration behind his genius and without me he would surely starve! Society craves men of genius and Oscar craves society’. Just then Oscar pushed his quivering smooth chin between Lady Amelia and Bosie and having nonchalantly lit his cigarette, which was a true artistic endeavour in itself, paused and said ‘did I hear mention of “society”? It is to my eternal shame that society is so simple to enter, yet so very difficult to exit – much like marriage!’ Lady Amelia found this amusing and said so which in turn amused Bosie for he was so easily amused.
‘Have you never thought Mr. Wilde’ asked Lady Amelia ‘of growing a moustache, you would look so distinguished!’
‘I’m afraid I haven’t the energy or the patience for such matters madam – elegance must be instantaneous or not at all; I am not prepared to wait for nature to produce what art can do immediately!’
‘There is nothing “instant” or “immediate” about your appearance Oscar, for it is the result of a life-long obsession with your own vanity!’ Bosie declared.
‘Nonsense’ spouted Wilde, ‘in fact, I make it a strict rule to spend a minimum of three hours in the morning, not a minute less, on my attire, a rule which I repeat in the afternoon and again in the evening before dinner! To return to the moustache madam, I find it is the last refuge of a man with something to hide!’
‘But the curate has a moustache!’ Lady Amelia said.
‘I rest my case!’ Wilde said gleefully.
‘And so did my late husband, God rest him!’ her Ladyship said, through pursed lips.
There was an uneasy silence which was broken by the tea things which were brought out into the garden by the maid and a plate of delicious looking scones with cream and jam were laid on the table. As well as the tea accoutrements there was a decanter of Sherry which the two gentlemen accepted instead of the tea! The maid then informed her Ladyship that the curate had arrived and was ‘securing his bicycle to the railings for Chiswick is a notorious hotspot for bicycle thieves’ as the curate had said and ‘one can’t be too careful can one?’
‘Do help your selves’ gentlemen!’ said Lady Amelia as she and Aloysius went off to greet the curate. Oscar and Bosie confided together before her Ladyship and the curate joined them – ‘Did you ever meet the Major?’ enquired Bosie of Oscar. ‘Unfortunately not, I am told he was an excellent conversationalist when not in the company of his dear wife, which was more often than not!’
‘The boy is quite exquisite is he not, a fallen angel in the making don’t you think?’ Bosie suggested, adding ‘strange that he is only eleven years old and the Major passed thirteen years ago! Surely there is some discrepancy there?’
 ‘Yes, a fair Ganymede indeed! There have been rumours in that location as to his origins, some say he is the result of an illicit liaison; it is an age-old predicament whereby the aristocracy fall for the romantic entanglements of the lower classes. Vulgarity is a trait exclusive to the upper classes and poverty is a condition peculiar to the lower classes – both are exceedingly ugly! As to the boy, the matter is never mentioned!’ Oscar poured himself another Sherry.
‘I do hope you become exceedingly drunk Oscar’, said Bosie, grinning, ‘you’re always brilliant when you’re wonderfully tight!’
Lady Amelia and the curate followed by the angelic Aloysius joined Wilde and Bosie and following introductions they all sat down to tea.
‘Mr. Wilde’ said the curate, ‘I have been reading your poems and I must say they really are quite beautiful!’
‘Ah curate’ intoned Wilde, ‘if I want flattery I go to my tailor for he seems to be under the false impression and outrageous misconception that flattery will result in my paying my tailor’s bill! Of course it is quite the opposite for the more he flatters me the more I spend and the longer the unpaid bill becomes! No, for the sake of dignity curate, you simply must read Baudelaire!’
‘Are you a religious man Mr. Wilde?’ enquired the curate.
‘With no disrespect to your good self sir, the foundation of the church was built upon hypocrisy! I consider myself a lapsed pagan for I have lost my faith in nature! But I suppose one could call me an apostle of aestheticism!’
‘Oscar’s a true heathen curate, whereas I have a great admiration for the finer points of Catholicism!’ Bosie declared.
‘May I tempt you to one of my cucumber sandwiches Mr. Wilde?’ said Lady Amelia pushing a plateful under Oscar’s nose.
‘Usually I yield to temptation madam, it is much simpler than resisting it but on this occasion I shall refrain!’ Wilde stated.
‘Dear Oscar suffers chronic indigestion with cucumbers, in fact; he has an abhorrence of anything green when served upon a plate before him!’ Bosie informed her Ladyship.
‘Quite true Bosie, in fact I react outrageously when presented with anything limp and green and edible because it so reminds me of all the hideous defects in nature! Salad and attempting to read Wordsworth bring me out in ghastly boils so I swore before the Almighty Ruskin never to digest either! The only green I am able to appreciate are jade stone, my green carnation and Absinth which my physician prescribes and strictly insists I take before, after and instead of meals!’ Lady Amelia was uncertain as to what direction the conversation was turning and offered the curate her sandwiches one of which he took just to show that he did not prescribe to Wilde’s outlandish notion of nature! ‘I don’t think you are being quite sincere Mr. Wilde’ said the curate ‘and I think perhaps you are making fun of me and my profession!’
‘Not at all curate’ Wilde said brushing the curate’s arm with his hand, ‘I am being quite serious. If one is virtuous one doesn’t seem to get a look-in with the Church but the minute one starts sinning it’s like a red rag to a bull and one can’t move for dog collars and cassocks making claims upon the soul! Once one breaks beyond the bastion of the ecclesiastical dog collar, you will find a guilty man taking refuge! The Anglicans are very good at pointing out the wrongdoings of their congregation and the Roman Catholics have cornered the market in suffering! The sad fact is the crucifixion has been done to death!’
‘You are a most conceited man Mr. Wilde and no doubt that is part of your charm!’ exclaimed the curate.
‘A man whose charm is always on the offensive is to his own detriment most offensive!’ Wilde said joyfully!
‘I really must agree’ interjected Lady Amelia ‘I don’t believe I have ever met such a conceited man!’
‘She has a point Oscar!’ said the tipsy Lord Alfred who had been filling his glass several times from the Sherry decanter.
‘At last, chivalry rears its unwanted and vastly overrated head!’ Wilde said with a nod and a wink towards Bosie and then turned to Lady Amelia - ‘Nonsense your Ladyship for I have it on good authority that only last season you entertained that old rascal Dickens and a more conceited man never walked the earth!’ Mr. Wilde sat back in his chair quite content with the verbal jousting.
‘I must say’ Wilde said slowly, ‘there is no greater time in all the year which equals Eastertide, everything seems so new and delicate! Do you not agree curate?’
‘I concur fully Mr. Wilde yet it is indeed a busy time for the church!’ the curate snorted helping himself to a jam scone.
‘Lent has such a curious fascination for me. Do you know the story of the Lent Lily?’
‘No!’ said Lady Amelia, ‘do tell it!’
‘It was a time of great bloodshed when the Roman army occupied Britain. The story of Christ was told by some early Christians and those that were caught were swiftly put to death. There were no churches as we have today for these followers of Christ’s word to congregate in and worship so they gathered in small glades and copses and celebrated with tales of Christ. They came to look upon the Lily as a symbol of Christ and his suffering for it appears at the time of Lent. The Romans were not happy with these unorthodox meetings and many were broken up and the followers dealt with, given the most inhumane punishments which satisfied the senate that order was being kept in Roman Britain and religious thoughts were not aloud to flourish and flower among the primitive race of the Britons! The Romans learnt that these early Christians had venerated the Lily and heaped symbolism upon it concerning the death of Christ and they were ordered to cut down all the Lilies in the land which they did. The following year the Lilies grew once more and once again the early Christians worshipped the flower for its ability to appear, like the physical resurrection of Christ! And once again the flowers were destroyed by the Romans, cut down and uprooted and burnt throughout the land! Eventually, when the Romans were driven out of Britain the early Christians noticed that the flower appeared during Lent and on Easter Day seemed to sacrifice itself, and as if by some miracle it would re-appear the next year, mirroring Christ’s suffering and resurrection! And so the Lily became known as the Lent Lily!’
‘I’m not sure that’s quite true Mr. Wilde, at least I have never heard that story before!’ the curate said with a playful smile upon his face, as if his leg were being not just pulled but twisted into the bargain too!
 ‘Tell me’ continued Lady Amelia, ‘aren’t you afraid of being found out?’
‘Madam I am always being “found out” by bill collectors – my only fear is that one day I shall be “found in” and expected to honour one’s debts!’
Just then the maid returned to inform her Ladyship that Mrs. Harribel-Jones had arrived. Mrs. Harribel-Jones was an inveterate gossip and had been rather looking forward to meeting the famous Mr. Wilde.
‘I hate to inform you Mr. Wilde’ said her Ladyship rising to greet Mrs. Harribel-Jones and taking him aside ‘and I would not mention it in front of the others, but you have a spot of jam decorating your necktie!’
‘I am aware of it madam for I put it there myself with my own fair hands. Don’t you think its colour exceptional, like the blood of Christ glistening in the sunlight! Think nothing of it madam, it is a mere affectation; it shall be “all the thing” next season!’
Mrs. Harribel-Jones, a large ‘un-corseted’ lady with the complexion of thistles joined the party and was delighted to be introduced to the great Mr. Wilde.
‘You must forgive me Mr. Wilde for being a little late as I had an appointment with my oculist!’ explained Mrs. Harribel-Jones.
‘Are you a practitioner of the dark arts madam?’ enquired Mr. Wilde.
‘I think you are mistaking my oculist for “occultist” sir!’ Mrs. Harribel-Jones said a little confused yet triumphantly.
‘Forgive me madam’ Wilde said courteously, ‘as it is such an easy mistake to make, for the one opens one’s eyes to the glories of irreligious immorality and the other turns a blind eye to pious respectability!’ Mrs. Harribel-Jones delighted in Wilde’s company and they talked a little on Shakespeare, declaring that if he had taken more consideration over his plays he may have become more well-known and that Huysman was ‘positively all the rage in Bohemia!’
The subject turned towards literary criticism and Mrs. Harribel-Jones asked Mr. Wilde if he would kindly look over her unpublished memoirs and review them with a design on publication.
‘Thank you madam’ said Mr. Wilde, ‘but I do not receive manuscripts. I am positively besieged by requests for my thoughts upon this book or my artistic impression of that play – it takes a certain order of being, malevolent by nature and of a tired, drab appearance, tarnished by the mud of ruined reputations to really do it injustice! These monsters are known in the theatrical trade and no doubt throughout all artistic avenues as “hypo-crits”!
‘Another more familiar name is “parasite”!’ suggested Bosie, ‘and let us not forget “philistine”!’ he added.
‘I really must disagree’ erupted the curate, ‘for where would we be without the careful eye watching over the intricacies of artistic expression to make sure it is suitable for society!’
‘God willing we would undoubtedly have “The Yellow Book” sir, and when I speak of God I am of course referring to Mr. Walter Pater!’ intoned Wilde.
‘Society should learn to mind its own business and to blazes with it!’ defended Bosie. The curate looked decidedly unsettled as Wilde whispered to Bosie ‘ah, the coup de grace!’
‘You must excuse my young friend here curate’, said Wilde steadying Lord Alfred, ‘he doesn’t normally react this way with Sherry, I think he has been mixing his metaphors again!
‘I think it is most inappropriate especially with Easter on the horizon and the good Lord on the cusp of once more shedding the darkness and flooding the world with light again!’ the curate said with his delicate, soft hands joined in prayer before him.
‘I quite agree it’s absolutely outrageous!’ Wilde said with a contemptuous look often found in pulpits. ‘I often read the lives of the Saints’ he continued, ‘and delight in their chaste and pious existence – they are such defining examples to us!’ Suddenly the curate warmed to Mr. Wilde for here was a subject that he knew well and was gracious to extend upon. ‘The Liturgy’ the curate began, ‘is filled with righteousness and suggests ways in which to live a fulfilling and worthy life sharing God’s word and…’
‘Yes quite’, interrupted Wilde, ‘but where is the story of Saint Judas? Why do we not hear about this neglected Saint? After all, he was one of the apostles and he was also doing God’s work as foretold by Christ when he turned Christ over to the Romans! That kiss of betrayal, man has been repeating it ever since! The fact that he died by his own hand should surely strengthen the case for Sainthood for he must have felt the guilt of the world upon him to take such steps and here we are almost two thousand years later calling him a “bad man” – forever condemned as a distrustful monster; he is a byword for everything disloyal and greedy, yet in my opinion he was the only apostle that truly loved Christ because he did not shirk from abandoning Christ even when Christ knew what he was about and forgave him for it! A chaque saint sa chandelle!’ The curate sat wide-eyed and without explanation. It was Lady Amelia who came to the rescue: ‘Attend to me Mr. Wilde’ said Lady Amelia, and after Mr. Wilde excused himself they walked together through the garden, leaving Bosie and the curate staring bemused at each other, and Mrs. Harribel-Jones feeding the ever unsatisfied stomach of Mrs. Harribel-Jones!
‘I am a little out of sorts Mr. Wilde for I received bad news this morning concerning an Aunt of mine who passed in the night and I was considering cancelling the garden party!’
‘How inconsiderate of the good Lady that she could not postpone the inevitable, Death is such an ill-mannered and unexpected guest! You have my sincere condolences madam!’ 
‘Thank you Mr. Wilde. It falls upon me of course to make the necessary arrangements as she never married and lived a quiet and simple life in Hastings!’
‘I find death and Hastings so inseparable for one does not exist without the other!’ said Wilde. ‘In fact, one never knows whether one is in Hastings or actually beyond the veil of life where there is absolutely nothing more than “quiet and simple” much like Hastings! She was fortunate not to marry, for I find all women attempt to make an immoral man virtuous which of course is their strength! But likewise, all men allow the fairer sex to make virtuous men of them and that sadly is their weakness!’
‘Talking of marriage Mr. Wilde, I have been contemplating that monumental position myself but I have many obstacles to overcome in deciding.’ Lady Amelia said discreetly.
‘Is there someone special madam?’ enquired Wilde.
‘No, not particularly; but I am unsure as to the period of widowhood and the question: have I made a good show of grieving my late husband the Major as to not upset society?’
Wilde looked a little quizzical and said ‘Madam I was not aware that there was a strict period of widowhood and I should think thirteen years quite sufficient to the memory of your dearly departed husband! Sometimes the oldest tree bears the softest fruit and we must not forget that we are living in an age of dignified splendour beneath a veneer of respectability that constrains the ordinary impulses; the world is changing madam and although Her Majesty Queen Victoria, whom I might add has set a precedence upon mourning, still darkens the throne and bathes England in a sea of black crepe and crinoline, there is an air of indifference and we are on a new threshold – Society must change with it or get left behind by it!’
‘I am glad to have your mind on the subject Mr. Wilde; I am not disappointed by your thoughts!’
Mr. Wilde and Lady Amelia walked back towards the company and Wilde could see that Bosie had slumped into a chair and was joining Lord Rothwell in his meditation, snoring very loudly indeed!
‘I am sorry your Ladyship but I think it is time my young friend and I departed for he has made a thorough exhibition of himself, much to the curate’s dismay and if it were not for the genteel ladies (and the charming Aloysius) we would have outstayed our welcome in the first few minutes of introduction! Come Bosie, once again your radiance has outshone me and there is nothing I hate more than being second best!’ Following the exit of the great man and the brilliant Bosie the garden party broke up, the curate went off to prepare yet another ‘abominable’ sermon, Aloysius ran off and chased her Ladyship’s cat Clytemnestra; Mrs. Harribel-Jones just managed a couple more scones before leaving and Lady Amelia Cotgrave-Stuart was left to contemplate the prospect of marriage!

Sunday, 12 March 2017

THE HAUNTED STAIRCASE AT OUNDLE

THE TALBOT HOTEL
OUNDLE, NORTHAMPTONSHIRE



THE TALBOT HOTEL
 
The Talbot Hotel in New Street, Oundle is reputedly haunted by the ghost of Mary, Queen of Scots who was held prisoner at nearby Fotheringhay Castle and where she was also executed. But why would she haunt The Talbot Hotel in Oundle?



DRUMMINGWELL LANE
 
 
There is also a spooky legend concerning a spring well which was located at the rear of The Talbot. The well was said to 'drum' or at least to sound as if a drum was being beaten. Unfortunately the well was filled in but the lane at the rear of The Talbot Hotel still bears its name.



THE STAIRCASE

Back to the ghost of Mary, Queen of Scots and why she haunts The Talbot. There has been a Public House located on this site since 638 AD. During Tudor times it was known as The Tabard or The Tabret. The oak staircase at The Talbot was removed from Fotheringhay Castle prior to its demolition in the 17th Century and is surely the staircase down which Mary would have been led to her execution!
 



In October 1586 Mary was tried in Fotheringhay Castle and found guilty!





On 8th February 1587 she was executed by beheading in the Great Hall of the castle.






The magnificent fa├žade of The Talbot Hotel was extensively rebuilt in 1625 using stone from Fotheringhay Castle.





The landlord of The Talbot at that time was William Whitwell and he also bought the staircase!






It is said that the ghost of Mary still descends down the stairs and light disembodied footsteps like that of a woman have been heard on the stairs. She has been seen at the top of the stairs wearing a long white gown with a white cap too and she is also said to look out of one of the landing windows. As if that wasn't enough 'things that go bump in the night' the sound of a woman crying has also been heard!





One of the splendid rooms at The Talbot Hotel





 
The corridor which looks down upon the courtyard






The corridor from the opposite end

Another location said to be haunted in Oundle is not too far from The Talbot Hotel, The Ship Inn on West Street where local legend says that the spirit of a  former landlord who jumped from an upstairs window to his death still walks this 14th Century coaching house! His ghost has been seen and felt, particularly on the stairs!





Saturday, 25 February 2017

ECHOES OF A YOUNG ANARCHIST


ECHOES OF A YOUNG ANARCHIST

REMINISCENCES OF SCHOOLDAYS

BY

BARRY VAN-ASTEN

 

Having attained an age whereby I think it is fairly safe to ascertain that most of the illustrious creatures and sado-masochistic beasts that had a hand in my educational years have passed from this world of excess and depravity into more pleasant pastures, I bethought it wise to recall a few haunting escapades and glorious moments from my school days before it is all lost to oblivion. My only excuse is to preserve these simple tortures for the benefit of history. My initial dilemma has been one of discretion: should I change names to protect the innocent? And then I thought to hell with it, most of them are probably decrepit or gracing their graves and busy fuelling the fires of Hell so I shall present an honest account. It is not my intention to cause unnecessary offence or to be exceptionally insulting or to ‘get my own back’; I am just presenting my opinion from the perspective of the young boy who was there!
I attended Wheelers Lane Secondary Boys School in Birmingham from 1980-1985 and thoroughly detested my time there! Throughout my years at the school I was always in the second from top class (there were four form classes) and there was a good mixture of wannabe swots and intellectual psychopaths or roughs! Any weakness or signs of effeminacy were quickly seized upon and dealt with appropriately. There was one boy I recall who expressed a wish to join the Royal Navy when he left school – he had signed his own death warrant! The Navy being associated with homosexual practices (or so it was to our young minds) the rest of his time at school was made a living hell by constant taunts; but he seemed capable of taking the pounding in his stride and probably went on to achieve his goal! I had my share of tackling bullies from my time at Billesley Junior School where I fought the strongest boy in one year and the strongest boy in another! I also remember having chewing gum cut out of my hair and having internal bleeding from an older boy punching me in the stomach in 1976! I quickly learnt to make people laugh and it always helped having a good pair of fast legs, but wherever possible I stood up to them, took my beating and went back for more as a show of determination which often won through and warranted some sympathy or respect!
Perhaps the only real period I enjoyed, if being incarcerated for the best part of the day and made to do things one doesn’t want to do can be called enjoyment was my first year at the school when everything seemed new and strange. All the older boys seemed like big men to us small boys and they seemed to do what the hell they liked and get away with it; breaking the rules and sticking two fingers up to the teachers! They were a strange mixture of Mods, Rockers, Skinheads, Punks and Teddy Boys … all flouting the school uniform regulations.

There was a decidedly unwholesome Welsh element to the teaching staff from the Headmaster Mr. Griffiths; I’m not sure if the Deputy Head Mr. Rough, affectionately known as ‘Daddy Rough’ was Welsh or not, but there was also the P.E. teacher Mr. Roberts known as ‘Taffy’ who sported a moustache, and the bearded Mr. Kirkby who took Geography. Each morning began with an Assembly in the Hall as we awaited the presence of Mr. Griffiths to utter his words of wisdom leaning on his lectern like some mad dictator following the strains of Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance march!
My form teacher for my first year of school was Mr. Evans, a large bearded Welsh man who taught woodwork and rugby, not being greatly interested in sport the latter filled me with horror for I had and still have a very real aversion to mud! And it always seemed to be so bloody cold when we played either at the school or on Billesley Common!
My absolute nightmare at school was mathematics, perhaps that’s not quite true for I quite enjoy the subject now but why is it taught by such evil bastards at school that they make it detestable and spoil the subject for any future learning? Throughout my years at the school there was one who walked those ghastly corridors who was pure evil personified; a man so detested by me that he was nothing short of the Devil incarnate! The teacher in question was the mathematics teacher, or at least one of them named Mr. Hobbs. He was a pint-sized, portly, pipe-smoking old man who I believe had been in the RAF as far as I knew; a man who wore the air of a hero and didn’t mind reminding everyone of it that he single-handedly defeated the German Luftwaffe! If he was in a good mood, i.e. not breathing fire or pulling the heads off small boys you only got the chalk thrown at you; if he was in a bad mood it would be followed by the wooden blackboard rubber! His gruff and croaking voice would rise and fall and some of his talk would be almost inaudible and to show his contempt, which he did often, he would give a great sniff as if to say ‘you’re not fit to lick my shoes boy!’ I believe it would be safe to say that he wasn’t overly keen on foreigners or anything that was not ‘English’ and having a foreign name myself that swiftly put me on his list of ‘pupils to destroy with utter misery’ and he took great delight in his tasks! He would set us our work to do and sit at the front of the class casting glances and directing vitriol towards us as he flapped and fouled himself like a great bird of doom before it was time at the end of the lesson for him to squawk in that hideous voice which to this day torments me: ‘Homework!’ I passionately wanted to do what Mr. Hitler had failed to do – kill Mr. Hobbs! I spent my dinner hour (lunch in less enlightened counties) pondering the many and most inventive ways of murdering him and in class whenever he would cough and splutter I looked expectantly towards him, praying for him to fall to the ground in agony and expire before the class to cheers and clapping of hands! It never happened!
Another maths teacher was Mr. Ball. I actually liked Mr. Ball, known as ‘Uncle Jack’ as I believe his first name was Jack, because he was such a good sport. He was quite old and doddery and could be mistaken for a simple-minded man, yet he was sharp as a tack and despite his hard of hearing and his mumbling in class he was a good teacher. Many times during dinner time I saw him going to the local pub The Hare and Hounds in Kings Heath smoking his pipe. During one particular ‘April Fool’s Day’ the class had been taunting him rotten and he took it with good nature. I informed him at the end of the lesson that I had placed a sign on his back which read: ‘Kick me’ and he casually said ‘I know!’ On another occasion, Wednesday 26th September 1984, a boy in class decided to tell Mr. Ball that I had just drawn in the text book. I denied the accusation but I think it was a case of the boy who cried wolf; I had a reputation for bad behaviour. I took it in my stride and didn’t really care either way; it was all part of the adventure! A wonderful man!
The only other maths teacher I recall was named Marsh and he was a great lumbering, clumsy man with a deep voice who didn’t seem to stay very long.

In my first year I remember the music teacher, Mrs. Stevens, a lovely old lady with lots of enthusiasm and energy for the subject; a woman who believed in what she was doing and the integrity showed! She taught us to repeat the poem ‘Vita Lampada’ by Sir Henry Newbolt (1862-1938) with its ‘Play up! Play up! And play the game!’ I was in the school choir, I have no notion of how I got there (just as I have no notion of how I became a member of the school’s Athletics Team, but there I am in the team photograph looking thoroughly bored) and I recall being involved in only one inter-school choir competition; I can’t remember if we won, probably not, and I think it was the first and last performance!
I also quite enjoyed history and one of the history teachers was named Mr. Anney. This heavenly bearded creature with the features of a squat King Edward also featured halitosis that could stun a bull at one-hundred paces. Another redeeming feature of the man was his eyes which were continually in movement as if in a state of tremor and unable to fix a point to focus upon so it was difficult to assess whether he was looking at you or not! He was an enthusiastic teacher and I particularly enjoyed his classes on the ‘History of Medicine and Anatomy’! Another History teacher and one of my form teachers was Mr. Whitby who sported a fine ‘Walter Raleigh’ beard! We gave him the nickname ‘Buzzard’ due to his habit of staring into space as if looking for prey to feed upon. He was an odd man and I think a somewhat tragic figure; I remember some minor scandal surrounding him and I saw him many years later at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery skulking around the exhibits looking a little dishevelled. He looked right into my eyes with his buzzard gaze and fled into the crowds and out of sight! Another favourite teacher who took History was the lovely Christine Keats, a young and attractive woman who went on to become an influential figure in the teacher unions! She became an assistant to the Head, Mr. Griffiths and one day I was passing his office with his door open and I made a comment that the two were having an affair, knowing he would hear it and sure enough he came out like a badger from its set and glared at me!
I don’t remember who took us for Religious Education perhaps because I found it so dull, nor do I remember who took us for Computer Studies which bored me endlessly with its tedious inputting of data merely to write one’s name and print it! Technical Drawing was taught by Mr. Clayton, an elderly gent with an unremarkable personality if I remember correctly and I do not recall who took us for metalwork.
For Biology there was Mr. Goldstein, a Jewish teacher with a hooked nose and piercing cross-eyes beneath a bushy brow wearing a lab coat. A nice enough fellow who failed to notice that I had drawn a swastika (purely for shock value) on my breast pocket which could only be seen in a certain light to replace my school badge which was a yellow cart wheel surmounted by a yellow crown on a black background! Chemistry was taught by Mr. Lacey, a fine fellow whose son would sit in on the end of the lesson after junior school finished and wait to be taken home. Physics was taught by Mr. Millward, a stern yet impeccably dressed man in a suit!
The delectable Miss Parker taught French and she was a very beautiful lady; Pottery was taught by a kind old lady whose name I think was Mrs. Hodgkins.
Art was given by the extremely laid back Mr. Judges and I remember attending a course at the Midlands Art Centre in Canon Hill Park in September 1981 with the Art class, trying various musical instruments and going behind the scenes of the theatre etc. There was another beautiful young teacher named Miss Mathews who flirted outrageously and taught some sort of contextual studies. Other teachers I recall are Mr. Watling, Mr. Braniff and Mr. Hewitt and a large somewhat effeminate man called Cobbledick!
My attendance at school was quite poor to say the least, between 1983 and 1984 I had eleven weeks off school!

There was another great menacing man whose cold stare could chill a boy from a hundred yards! This ‘track-suited terror’ lurked and could be upon a boy with superhuman speed and he was known by all as the P.E. teacher Mr. Ward, another of the great moustaches at the school! The rumour was that he only had one of what most men usually have two of in their trousers and according to legend he slipped at the swimming baths and injured himself! I do not know if this is true or not but the association stuck with him! Physical Education was a bore, I hated swimming, rugby and wasn’t keen on cricket, basketball or football; athletics was dull and so was weightlifting but I didn’t mind badminton so much and cross country running which was a good excuse to get out of school and have a casual walk round the streets or nip off for a cigarette! 
I enjoyed going off the premises at dinner (lunch) time which was strictly forbidden. I had set up my own catering business (ah the delights of Thatcher’s entrepreneurial Britain!) supplying docile swots with chocolate and crisps at a price and making a little for myself; I happily went to the local supermarket in King’s Heath with my order sheet! On one occasion, Thursday 15th March 1984, a day when we caused a teacher named Miss Mason to burst into tears and run out of the class, a boy I knew set the fire alarm off and I was not present at the roll call so I was given a week’s detention: an hour during lunch and an hour during home time!

Mr. Griffiths the Head was the wielder of the cane but the preferred weapon of choice was the ‘slipper’ for minor offences. It was Mr. Ward’s honour to casually ‘slipper’ (actually an old training shoe) me along with three of my friends in the gym for going off premises and taking a trip to the local fish and chip shop in King’s Heath. He took a great run up and seemed to delight in the punishment, his moustache quivering with anticipation! This was on Thursday 26th May 1983. In fact, the same thing had happened at my Junior School, at Billesley, (Headmaster Mr. L. C. Galley) when a group of us went to the local shop and came back festooned and laden with sweets! Some swot of a girl, her mother was a teacher, told on us and it was the job of the Deputy Head, a fine man named Mr. Warburton who stalked the corridors like the figure of Death himself and had a habit of tucking his thumbs into his trouser waist and hitching his trousers up, to administer the beating. Once again it was the ‘slipper’ or what we called the ‘pump’ in the Assembly Hall. This must have been around 1978.  It was the kind Mr. Warburton who told me I was reading like a fourteen year old when I was ten, but I couldn’t stand those awful reading books on the curriculum and made no headway with them at school; at home I was reading encyclopaedias which I believed to be the only form of pleasure in reading! The Headmaster, Mr. Galley, was a mysterious man; I once saw him carrying a bundle in his arms which was a small boy kicking and screaming because he didn’t want to be at school and he unceremoniously burst into the class with him and seated him at his table, where he remained simpering quietly in floods of tears (the boy, not the Headmaster); I don’t recall whether he gave the boy a form of justice in the shape of his hand brought hard and fast upon his backside but it did dispel all rumours that the Headmaster only came out under the cover of darkness!

Many of my friends from Junior School went to my Senior School and I remember one boy who I was not best friends with but I did know him and like him. He had severe eczema and was eternally bullied because of it; he was a scruffy little urchin and whenever I remember him he is always either cringing from someone’s torment or looking over his shoulder. At Senior School Mr. Ward came into our metalwork class and broke the news to us that the boy in question had been hit by a bus and died, this was 1982 I think and I looked round to see the rest of the class smiling, sniggering and laughing – I had never seen anything so cruel and heartless! I didn’t learn anything about metalwork that day but I learnt a lot about human nature!
Some of my friends were also members of the 40th Birmingham Boy’s Brigade back in 75 where I was a member for about three years I think. Someone had told me how to make a battery bomb and I made it to the specifications with the intention of blowing up the Methodist Church where we had our Boy’s Brigade with Captain Nash. Of course I tried to set the thing off to no avail but even at that young age there was a desire for danger! Speaking of Billesley Junior School, my first memory is of being naked with my brother and a young girl being examined together. I cried knowing at this young age (about four of five) that it wasn’t right to be naked in front of a) adults, b) girls and c) strangers! It was all very innocent at the time and I remember the infants had a little fenced-off play area not far from the main gate (there was no sentry on the gate in those days and adults came and went). The infants often played naked in the sand pit or with the water troughs on view for all the world to see and no-one batted an eye lid! That wouldn’t be allowed today!
Another memory is of playing with the bean bags and hula hoops watching the grown-up passers by walking outside the railings and thinking how lucky they were to be free, walking in the sunshine and that someday I would be able to be free like them! School seemed to steal the best hours of the day away from you, the hours before midday and then the time towards two-thirty; I always believed this throughout my school life and it was only after suffering all those years in the name of education that I came to appreciate fully those hours! I pity all children that have to be destroyed by the same methods! I also recall almost drowning at King’s Heath Swimming Baths, where we went with the school. I was limp and to all effects lifeless, not that anyone took notice of me except my friend who dived down and pulled me up! It caused a fear of swimming all through my school years and my young friend, a fiery tempered black boy who I looked up to, used to have pretend fights with me to try and impress the girls (which in his case it mostly did!). He even saved me from Mr. Warburton’s wrath one day as I was busy fighting a young ruffian who had been bullying me. The bully played the coward’s way and tripped my legs so that I hit my head. When Mr. Warburton came rushing to the disturbance my great black friend took a vial of theatrical blood from his pocket and poured it over his face, thus causing a distraction for me and the bully to make our escape! Of course I sought out the bully for a re-match but he smiled with what I thought was a small degree of admiration and no re-match occurred! Mr. Warburton also took a class to King’s Heath and we did some brass and grave rubbings at the Parish Church. I was accused around this time by a silly young girl who told Mr. Warburton that I had been spitting from the top of the multi-storey car park which I think was Sainsburys as we had gone up to see the view of the area! Back in class he singled me out and I denied it. He accepted my answer and said if I find you have said otherwise to anyone I will know! Many tried to get the information from me but my lips were sealed and even to this day the oath remains!
In fact it was at my junior school where I actually cried in front of a teacher! She was a lovely old frightening woman with a deep voice like ‘Peggy Mount’ who shouted a lot but I liked her (and feared her) named Mrs. Hackle. I remember having to learn the words to David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ and make a cardboard replica of Dodge City. I also recall being in a school play and I had to play the part of a tree dressed in a flimsy see-through green gauze material. The reason why I was crying was because it was found I was intellectually above the class and had to be moved up along with my friend, a beautiful young Asian girl! I was reluctant to leave! Another play I was meant to star in as a munchkin was The Wizard of Oz; I remember the rehearsals with Mr. Warburton in the Assembly Hall but I never turned up for the performance! Other teachers at the junior school were Mrs. Brinkley, Mrs. Cran and Miss Bowman who was the music teacher and played the piano during assembly.
But I digress, back to Wheelers Lane!

I really enjoyed English Literature, although the rebel in me would not show any visible interest, I loved books! The teacher, Mr. Goulding was a young idealistic man who had a great enthusiasm for his subject. I regret deeply that I upset his lessons by messing about and taunted him for I actually admired and respected him for talking to us on the same level. He was a laid back, slightly long haired fellow who wore round ‘John Lennon’ spectacles. I am pretty sure his name was David and the class took to calling him ‘Davros’ (as in the character from Doctor Who) and shouting out ‘brown shoes’ because he did indeed wear brown shoes – such was the want of young boys to annoy their teachers with the slightest fancy! Two memorable books we read in class were: ‘A Taste of Honey’ and ‘Of Mice and Men’. It was Friday 9th March 1984 and we had been reading a book called ‘The Outsiders’ and Mr. Goulding had planned for us to visit the Classic Cinema in Station Street where it was showing as a double bill with ‘Rebel without a cause’ starring James Dean, a hero of mine! At the cinema I sat with my two friends whom I shall give the initials as N. S. and P. S. B. and Mr. Goulding sat in front with his beautiful young wife whom we had just met for the first time! I don’t think she stayed for the whole showing of the films for it was not long into ‘Rebel’ when my friends and I noticed the man sitting one seat away from me to my left. He must have been in his seventies and he had a terrible tremor in his right hand which he kept between his legs! He kept looking at me; probably because we were all wearing our school uniforms and he couldn’t believe his luck! And then as the aroma of stale salmon wafted through the cinema aisle Mr. Goulding casually turned round and asked ‘is that man doing what I think he’s doing?’ to which we answered in the affirmative and we all moved a few rows forward at his suggestion. Not perturbed, the old man with his lobster eye winking in the light from the projectionist, stood up and moved closer towards us, sitting down to resume his business! Eventually he got up and left and my eager friends were all for leaving too and following him and exposing him etc. but I was too engrossed in James Dean’s performance to bother with that! It was also in 1984 on Friday 20th July to be precise at the age of fifteen that I took up the art of smoking! I had had the occasional smoke previously but I now took up this charming activity with great enjoyment and even waltzed into the playground smoking a cigarette to the astonishment of many lesser brave souls!

On Friday 28th March 1985, the last day of term, a friend of mine brought into school a large tin of red paint! Another friend and I went absolutely berserk and it ended up all around the school daubed on walls and my friend had taken it outside school and decorated a car with it! Of course I forgot all about it until term began on Monday 15th April 1985 and all hell broke loose! The next day the school caretaker named Wilkins, a nasty vicious little thug made a citizen’s arrest on me and took me to King’s Heath Police Station where I spent a couple of hours in the cell! It was my first and only experience of the cells and I decided there and then that I didn’t ever want to experience them again! On the following day at school Mr. Ward made me write out a statement for the Headmaster which I did. The final exams occurred in June 1985 and by August/September I was free from the hell of school! I turned my back on all that useless waste of time, went to University and made something of myself despite those early years preparing me for a life of handouts and poorly paid work! I still have resentment towards authority and on any occasion will defy and thwart it as much as possible, it’s the old anarchist in me that will not die!

Friday, 13 January 2017

NANETTE AND NOTHINGNESS


NANETTE AND NOTHINGNESS

BY

BARRY VAN-ASTEN

 

After an interval of almost eleven years the audience and critics alike gathered with great anticipation in a first performance of a new work by the composer Perkin Campbell. The vultures sat wide-eyed with dinner on their minds (and on their neck ties) as if staring into an open grave in which Perkin was about to be buried – ‘we have come to honour and pay our last respects to the great man who today ascends upon noble wings of gossamer towards the heights of heaven!’ Yet there was a remarkable absence by the composer which was notable to all the insect-brained thugs of the musical press who had the power to restore or ruin reputations!
Campbell, who had not known the delightful sound of applause too often, was described as a ‘long-haired knight of British serialism’ and his compositions were likened, perhaps too harshly, to a ‘man shitting peas into a china teapot!’ But Campbell’s glory days were far behind him and now he had resigned himself to the slow and gradual grind of teaching composition theory to a new generation of ‘long-hairs’ and short-hairs alike at one of the more prestigious of Oxford Colleges.
It is true that Campbell had been one of the leading British exponents of ‘experimental music’ and had he been born fifty years earlier there is no doubt he would have been one of the ‘bright young things’ who talked a great deal about art and produced very little of it. In fact, Perkin first came to the attention of the public, achieving some notoriety with his first major work the ‘Snoring Sonata’ of 1973 which draws upon the ‘exposition, development and recapitulation’ of its theme using sounds ‘nocturnally nasal’. The piece later became a tour de force in his short repertoire and made his name in the world of classical music. His second acclaimed work was his ‘Nose and Throat Quintet’* two years later in 1975, which explored further Campbell’s interest in the twelve-tone system as developed by Arnold Schoenberg and the Second Viennese School. Perhaps not achieving the recognition it deserved, nevertheless, it hailed Campbell as one of the most creative and innovative of British Avant-Garde composers of his time!
Throughout the summer of seventy-six Campbell worked on his next big composition which he completed the following year – his ‘Bowel Concerto in Two Movements’ (1977); unfortunately the premier coincided with the Queen’s Silver Jubilee celebrations that year and incorporated elements of the National Anthem. The Queen was decidedly not amused to say the least and even his greatest admirers thought he had become disturbed mentally and he lost all respect as a serious composer! Following the fiasco of the Concerto, all work dried up apart from a few film score offers and TV commercials which were indeed few and far between. He was lambasted in the British press and caricatured carrying a porcelain ‘urinal’ wind instrument everywhere he went! Critics said that Campbell had lost his mind and his direction and there were many disparaging comments and derogatory pieces written about the once brilliant composer Perkin Campbell.
But now he was bored – tired of having to teach compositional skills to imbeciles and the tediously dull with their ‘media’ chatter; tired of his whole existence!
The lights were lowered and the first movement began! ‘Finally’ declared the music press, two weeks before the performance, ‘a new work from Campbell!’ Not since his ‘Anne Boleyn Suit’ which utilised ‘random notation’ had the public heard anything and now his magnum opus – Nanette and Nothingness, a massive choral symphony was being performed.
It was a cold and dreary January evening and Perkin sat at home amidst the tattered threads of his life. Christmas had come and gone as it usually does and Perkin was glad of it, he couldn’t bear the whole affair, not since he was a child and saw his Uncle Charlie dressed as the Christmas Fairy doing something unmentionable with the turkey! The experience scarred him for life and now he couldn’t look at a turkey or any poultry for that matter without seeing his Uncle’s grinning face, all bloated and blotchy. And as for New Year that was a whole different story which is better kept covered up, just like Perkin usually is on New Years’ Eve, in his bed with cotton stuffed in his ears and in total darkness, he doesn’t want to hear any firework celebrations or god forbid, people having fun! No, this is an awful time of year for poor Perkin!
The second movement began!
Perkin, an eccentric and idiosyncratic man, did not, as I have mentioned, attend the performance. In fact, he was more afraid of what would be said of his drift towards the neo-classical than he was of the actual performance of his work. He had given so much of himself in his compositions that he felt extremely vulnerable; not since the terrible reviews of one of his earliest works ‘Sounds in Space I-IV’ (1970) had Perkin felt such pangs of anxiety. He did what he had learnt to do, retreat into his own comfortable dimension, well away from any ravenous public attention at his performances. Being a solitary sort of ‘old maid’ he refused to give interviews and discuss his work and the result was that he had become quite forgotten by the music world and only remembered by a select few who had interests in British serialism and its development, in fact, Perkin, by all accounts had died several times, according to one of the lesser accurate newspapers, of which they are numerous, if one reads such things!
The third movement began!
Perkin was reluctant to reveal the identity of ‘Nanette’ after whom the symphony was named but it is likely that she was one of his pupils, a fine Austrian pianist named Nanette Schumpfmeyer. Rumours at the time suggested he was in a relationship with the young woman but it was nothing more than an infatuation on his side; in fact, she acted as the muse to his creativity and was happy to do so! She would never know to what effect she had upon him for she filled his every waking thought and he venerated her into his ideal woman! Things could have been so different for Perkin had she shown him affection in return, but it was not to be! As a result, there had been a massive output in recent years of romantic works which he refused to show anyone and declared that they would be heard only posthumously!
The fourth movement began!
Perkin had been considerably unlucky in love and had remained a bachelor; his academic life in the college cushioned him from the outside world and gave him little opportunity to forge lasting relationships and besides, he was never comfortable around people and detested any form of intrusion upon his life. He did enjoy fishing and sometimes could be seen sporting his shotgun on the clay pigeon shoot, and on some occasions he could be seen furiously smashing a ball around the local golf course, but above all he much preferred listening to his favourite composers, such as Wagner, Messiaen, Sibelius and of course, J. S. Bach!
The choral symphony was drawing to a close. The blood-thirsty fiends were wiping the saliva from their lips and waiting to inject their reviews with the usual bile and sweet-smelling poison. The work was a combination of orchestra, voices and recorded sounds. In the final movement, following a short pause of silence is a loud eruption of a recorded gunshot which was slowed down to less than half-speed with echo and delay. As it rang around the auditorium, there was a deathly chill which seemed to penetrate the audience and then a tremendous applause broke out and the critics declared it a resounding success and a work of genius indeed; the spectacular savagery of the fourth movement had captured the torment and emotional torture of love’s loss and some were standing with tears in their eyes as they clapped. It seemed that Campbell had achieved recognition after all for an outstanding piece of orchestral composition, a work which would cement his name as one of the greats of British classical music!
Back at Oxford, Perkin sat in his richly decorated rooms, finished his half bottle of sherry, loaded a cartridge into his shotgun, placed his mouth around the barrel and pulled the trigger.

 

 
*It has become an ‘urban myth’ that during a performance of Campbell’s ‘Sneezing Sextet’, a member of the audience choked to death in the auditorium which gave Campbell the inspiration to write his atonal piece – ‘lung interruption’.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

THE MAD MUDADABOB OF THE WOOD


THE MAD MUDADABOB OF THE WOOD

BY

BARRY VAN-ASTEN

 

It was a day of great sadness in the little village of Grimswald as Mrs Chilcomb the baker’s wife lay hysterical in her bed having slept very little the previous night after her youngest son Harcourt went missing yesterday. Her husband, Seymour, the baker was with the rest of the men-folk searching for the boy but it would be no use, he had disappeared like all the rest before him! The legends connected with Gallows Wood and the ‘Mad Mudadabob’ the wicked beast or ‘witch’ named by the villagers and said to reside in the woods were numerous and handed down through generations so that a very real presence was conjured that crawled through the woods and right through the village and whoever enters the woods were surely never to be seen again. Just over a hundred years ago four children were playing in the woods against their parent’s warnings and all four were never seen again. It seems that not a year goes by without some catastrophic event connected to the woods occurring.
The woods were dark and dense and those that had travelled near its edge where the road climbs towards Penwizen say that there is an awful pervading silence and that no birds will sing in the vicinity of the woods; no flowers bloom in the woods and the primrose and bluebell fear to grow beyond the outer limits of the wood within its strangling darkness. Strange lights have been seen flitting through the boughs at night and children sing songs about the fairies in Gallows Wood. Fearing yet more tragedies the Lord of the manor, Lord Montague announced a decree to the village proclaiming that anyone who can rid Gallows Wood of its infernal monster shall take his daughter, Lady Lucinda’s hand in marriage along with a thousand acres of land and a place within Monford Hall, he swore this upon his honour as a gentleman, which as we know is a very great oath indeed!
His Lordship’s daughter, Lady Lucinda was a very beautiful young woman with a pale complexion, long golden hair and large blue eyes, skilled in many arts and homely crafts with a very gentle nature and love for her father (her mother, Lady Matilda had died during childbirth and thus Lucinda became very close to his Lordship).
The first to announce his intentions of slaying the beast and claiming the Lord’s daughter was the shoemaker, Bill Trumble, who stated that he would make a fine pair of shoes and riding boots for his Lordship from the skin of the beast! The shoemaker set upon his journey to much cheering from the crowds that saw him off, and the shoemaker looked over his shoulder and waved as he went over the hill, puffing on his tobacco pipe with the gloomy Gallows Wood in view. The following day the shoemaker’s horse came trotting along the lane back towards the village and all the villagers feared the worst had happened to Bill, which indeed it surely had for he was never seen again from that day forward!
The next person to attempt the quest was the Butcher, Joseph Cotton, and before he left the village he declared that he would make a huge chain of sausages from the monster for the whole village to enjoy! And so he too set off into the distance with the dark impending doom of the woods before him. To keep his mind from the horror that lurked ahead, Joseph blew tunes upon his tin whistle but Joseph’s heart almost beat out of his chest as he neared the haunted woods and a dark mood took over the butcher which grew in intensity the closer he got. The next day Joseph’s horse was seen heading towards the village on the old Penwizen Road. Joseph was never seen again, much to the annoyance of those admirers who delighted in his pies and sausages!
The third person to set off from the village was the extremely short-sighted, bespectacled Tailor, Thomas Bullfinch, who presumptuously stated that he would stitch a fine suit from the skin of the beast and present it to his ‘Father in Law – Lord Montague’! His boastful attitude did not win him much favour in the village and besides, most of the villagers were too poor to afford his expensive suits and so hadn’t much taken to him as a villager, but, he may bring back a fine suit to prove that the beast is dead and so they made a great pretence of wishing him well, knowing that he would probably never be seen again, like the shoemaker and the butcher before him! And so he wasn’t!
Over the past few days as these brave men had set off into the woods with what appeared no fear of death, the Vicar’s daughter, Miss Selina Merryworth, had, like the other villagers watched them go. Selina was considered to be very beautiful amongst the villagers with her long dark hair and large brown eyes and she was well-liked and she knew that she was just as brave as any man, and so without notifying anyone of her intentions, she set off after dinner on horseback with a hunting rifle and the intention of bringing back the dead body of the Mad Mudadabob or whatever it is that lurks in the woods!
The moon shone full as Selina entered the dreary woods that hung over her like a dark shadow and followed a trail that meandered through the interior. Not a sound was heard nor a creature seen and the intense darkness held some fearful approaching menace. Suddenly the horse pulled up and began to rear and Selina could do nothing to encourage it to walk on. She dismounted and tethered the horse to a branch. In the distance beyond the dark boughs she could see a light and as she got nearer she could see the old woodcutter’s cottage in a much dilapidated state, yet a light shone within. Selina approached the cottage and seeing the door was open, entered, closing the door behind her. Through the murky gloom that was illuminated by a flickering fire in the hearth she could see human bones decorating the room, skulls upon the walls and a table and chair made of skeletons. In the hearth was a large pot and as Selina peeked into it she could see a pair of spectacles floating in the bubbling soup and then she noticed a pair of eyes behind them, glazed and staring at her and as she looked again she could see the ruddy remnants of the Tailor, Thomas Bullfinch’s face bobbing up and down in the boiling liquid, his tongue extruding from his mouth. Selina quickly turned away and as she leant against the table she could see a tin whistle and a tobacco pipe among other objects upon it, such as a small doll, a pair of dice and several coins.
Suddenly, the door flew open and there standing in the doorway was the figure of a menacing woman framed by the dark night behind her. Two points of fiery red lights pierced into Selina’s soul and in the next moment a large and lithe creature which must have been seven feet tall moved swiftly as if it were floating and Selina could see the human-like figure before her covered in a fine material which draped around the monster. The thing stared intensely at her and Selina felt something come over her, as if she were dreaming but she managed to pull herself out of the unearthly spell of the witch which must have overcome those who had tried to kill the beast before her and then without warning the thing rushed at her with great pace. Selina drew her rifle and blasted a hand-sized hole in its heart and the witch fell to a heap before it could get its sharp talons on her!
When she had recovered her senses Selina walked towards the monster and could see it had an almost human face, female in fact with eyes much like her own which were now black where flames were moments before and a mouth which was contorted into some wild grimace. She took the rope she had with her and bound the body of the ‘witch’ to some wooden poles she found in a clearing and attached the rope to her horse and set off back to the village and to Monford Hall.
When Selina reached the village her father the Vicar, who had been very concerned about his daughter, was the first to greet her and the church bells were ringing and the villagers were cheering and shouting with joy! In fact, the day became a festival day which would be celebrated for many generations after!
At the Hall the Lord was pleased to see Selina and looked at the ‘witch monster’ she brought with her and declared that the village was now safe! Then his Lordship added that of course she would not hold him to his oath to present his daughter, Lady Lucinda’s hand in marriage and that instead he would give her his daughter’s weight in gold coins, but Selina said:
‘My Lord, you are a just man and a noble man and your word is very truth amongst the village and so I request that you keep your word and honour me by allowing me to take your daughter’s hand in marriage!’ His Lordship was aghast but being an honourable man he was duty bound and kept his word and a week later Selina and Lady Lucinda were married by Selina’s father in the parish church of Grimswald and both brides were very beautiful, Selina wearing a lovely scarlet dress which clung neatly to her small bosom and Lucinda a white dress which complemented her delicate and petite figure and following the ceremony a great feast was prepared for the village and on the table, set for dinner, was the Mad Mudadbob, which had been roasting in the kitchen all day, on a magnificent silver platter, big enough for several children to bath in, which following the feast became its general use amongst the village children!
Mrs Chilcomb, the baker’s wife had an extra large portion of ‘roast witch’ and felt contented that by proxy she was getting even with the butcher, Joseph Cotton, who once served her a terrible cut of shoulder which she accused him of belonging to a small dog, and at the same time, getting even with the Tailor, Thomas Bullfinch, who once short-changed her but also not realising that she was also ‘getting even’ with her own son, Harcourt!
Selina and Lady Lucinda became very well-liked amongst the villagers and the Ladies resided at the Hall with Lord Montague and in time Lucinda’s duty to honour her father’s wishes deepened into a great love and intimacy for Selina!
It was two years later that Lady Lucinda’s cousin, Sheridan, a handsome man who was a very skilled horseman came to visit the Hall and stayed several days. Sheridan and the Ladies talked much about the legend of the Mad Mudadabob and how Lady Selina killed the witch; and how now birds sing joyously in the woods once more and flowers grow within without fear!

It is to be noted that not long after, there were celebrations in the village at the news that Selina and Lucinda had both fallen pregnant but as to who the father or fathers were were not talked about. Selina and Lucinda gave birth to a healthy girl and boy, respectively who both grew up to be very skilled in horsemanship!